Fast and the Furious – The Countdown to Canada’s 44th Federal Election

With 5 days down and just over 30 to go before we head to the polls to exercise our civic duty, we are officially experiencing the shortest election period in Canadian history. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped by Rideau Hall to ask the Governor General to commence the dissolution of parliament he not only triggered the election but also revived Bill C-76 and its onerous legislative requirements for Canadian publishers.

Bill C-76 states that all online platforms (as defined by audience composition numbers set out in the Bill) must publish a registry of all partisan and election advertising messages displayed on their platform, including a copy of the ad itself and certain prescribed information. Quickly jumping into high gear, the team at IAB Canada set up an open discussion with Elections Canada, built a comprehensive Elections resource section on our site, updated our Where and How Ads Run in Canada During the Federal Election and relaunched our successful IAB Canada Issues Tracker that was released during the 2019 election. This useful tool was developed in partnership with the Canadian Press and is updated every 24 hours to help outline the most up-to-date issues as they make their way onto a platform and in turn, allow publishers to keep their eyes out for “issue” ads which during an election, are considered political, but can easily go unidentified in a fast-paced election and therefore, not make it into the registry putting publishers at risk of receiving hefty fines. You can subscribe by reaching out to

Publishers are not the only ones impacted by Bill C 76; agencies also have a lot to consider. For starters, they need to keep an eye on issues to ensure that their NGO or other socially aware clients do not have their campaigns caught in the crossfire, they also have a responsibility to help the candidates themselves get their messages out to potential supporters. We sat down with IAB Canada agency member, Lynette Whiley, Senior National Account and Marketing Manager at Chameleon Digital Media to get her insight into how agencies are navigating this fast and furious federal election.

IAB Canada (IABC): What do you think is the biggest issue facing candidates in this monumentally short election period?   

Lynette Whiley (LW): This is the shortest run-up to a federal election in recent history. There is little precedent and therefore little previous learning to glean insights from, so all stakeholders will be struggling to educate, persuade and convince their constituents to vote, and most importantly, vote for the “right” person/party! The question when the dust settles will be, did we have enough time to do what we needed to do?  

IABC: What can agencies do to help get the campaign messages out to the public to ensure they have the information they need to cast an educated vote? 

LW: The short time-frame is our reality so the focus should be around either talking to as many constituents as possible (broad reach) or focusing on wards that will seriously impact the outcome by virtue of size, incumbent, opposition, leanings etc. – a more strategic approach for sure.  All the while suppressing the desire to communicate EVERYTHING that the campaign wants to say.   Effectiveness still comes down to the right message, at the right time, to the right people.  Agencies can help by working with their political, lobbyist, and NGO clients in being crystal clear on who the audience is (or should be) and delivering the right message to that audience.  Spending time upfront to identify critical audiences is a worthwhile first step.  Understanding more than simple demographics is important – by that we mean understanding what the drivers are that would compel an individual to vote in a certain way.  For example, if a client believes that talking to a union member base can affect the outcome of the results, an agency has many resources to find that audience, and deliver a message to them quickly and efficiently.   And, of course, having a piece of creative that speaks to this audience in a way that causes them to stop and think, that shows insight into the real problem and the potential solution will cause action and is a critical component too.   

There’s a huge opportunity to learn which platform message resonated the most which could potentially inform the party’s platform going forward.  And we think that providing clients with performance metrics that not only show who was exposed to the message, but whether they acted on it, is valuable – not just whether they clicked on the ad, but whether they showed up at a polling place.  Now the client can draw a straight-line correlation between someone seeing an ad and voting in a federal election.  That’s ROI in our minds and will help to answer the question of “did we have enough time to do what we needed to do?” 

IABC: Have there been any innovations or an uptick in DOOH advertising this time around? 

LW: Yes! We’ve had calls from all the major parties but also a great deal of interest from the smaller political players. We have RFP responses in front of both the People’s Party of Canada and the Green Party, as Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party, seeks to rebuild both her reputation and her constituency in her Toronto Centre riding using Adapt’s DOOH assets. These are quite beyond the usual campaigns we execute with the Liberal, PC and New Democrat parties, showing that the impact of DOOH is starting to make waves even among political advertising neophytes.  What this says to us is that DOOH has been recognised as an effective channel to provide a local, grassroots method of communicating to constituents. 

If you would like to get involved in the election conversation, please reach out to